10 December 2020

China Should Beware of the Economic Consequences of Fighting with India


On November 10, 2020, senior officials from India and China met for the eighth time to discuss the disengagement of military deployments from certain parts of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The LAC is a 3,488-kilometer (2,167-mile) notional line that separates Indian- and Chinese-held territories. In the summer of 2020, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed several points on the LAC. It led to the beginning of a major standoff, and fatalities on both sides—the first since 1967.

As of December 1, the ground positions had not changed much since the standoff began in May—apart from a surprise move in August by the Indian Special Frontier Force to capture a set of strategically important heights along the LAC. This was in reaction to the PLA’s intrusion in the same area.

Today, the key questions have to do with competing visions for disengagement and what exactly a status quo ante means to both sides. For India, it appears that a full disengagement would mean returning to the positions held by both the militaries in March 2020, before the PLA downright broke with the terms and spirit of a prior set of hard-fought agreements between India and China that were designed to maintain “peace and tranquility” on the LAC.

How China Is Buying Up the West’s High-Tech Sector

By Elisabeth Braw

Over the last few years, Western governments and parliaments have ramped up efforts to try to limit the opportunities for companies from certain countries (read: China) to buy up their most innovative firms. The United Kingdom is strengthening its laws curtailing foreign acquisitions, as is Sweden. France, Germany, and Italy have already done so. In October this year, the European Union’s foreign direct investment screening mechanism became fully operational. But such laws against foreign purchases of Western firms may come too late. China taps into start-ups long before they’re mature enough to be acquired.

To be sure, the new laws are important. In Sweden, for example, between 2014 and 2019, Chinese buyers acquired 51 Swedish firms and bought minority stakes in 14 additional ones. The acquisitions also included some 100 subsidiaries. Most worrisome, in 2018, Chinese outfits—two of them linked to the military—bought three cutting-edge Swedish semiconductor start-ups. In 2017, Imagination—a top British chipmaker—was acquired by a firm owned by a state-controlled Chinese investment outfit. Before that, a Chinese firm bought the leading German industrial robot-maker, Kuka.

Securing the China Dream: The PLA's Role in a Time of Reform and Change

by Roy D. Kamphausen, David Lai, and Tiffany Ma

The chapters in this volume were originally presented as papers at the 2017 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Conference convened by the National Bureau of Asian Research, the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and the Department of the Army. Organized around the theme “Securing the China Dream: The PLA’s Role in a Time of Reform and Change,” the conference focused on the impact of China’s changing political landscape, military restructuring, and modernization on the PLA’s ability to fulfill its strategic objective of fighting and winning informationized local wars.

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Jonathan Swan

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

In the interview, McChrystal said a nuclear-armed North Korea is still the most pressing national security threat — just as President Obama warned President-elect Trump in late 2016 — and "there's no negotiating them away" from being a nuclear power despite Trump's flashy efforts.

The China Challenge Can Help America Avert Decline

By Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Doshi

When U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office—likely masked and surrounded by socially distanced officials and family—he will look out on a country that many believe is in decline. The problems that propelled President Donald Trump to office, including a collapsing middle class and toxic internal divisions, remain. And Trump will bequeath new ills to his successor: a runaway pandemic, a struggling economy, burgeoning debt, a wounded democracy, and a diminished global reputation.

“Declinism,” or the belief that the United States is sliding irreversibly from its preeminent status, is tempting. But such fatalism would be misguided. The United States still retains enviable advantages: a young population, financial dominance, abundant resources, peaceful borders, strong alliances, and an innovative economy. Moreover, as Samuel Huntington wrote in Foreign Affairs decades ago, the United States possesses an unusual capacity for self-correction, with declinists ironically playing “an indispensable role in

Rejoining TPP

Matthew P. Goodman

FROM: The National Security Adviser
SUBJ: Rejoining TPP
DATE: January 21, 2021

Last November’s signing by 15 Asian countries of a far-reaching trade agreement put a spotlight on the U.S. absence from major economic initiatives in the vital Indo-Pacific region. It raises the question of whether the United States should reverse President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) despite economic and political challenges at home.
The Issue

For more than 25 years, between its co-founding of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and bringing TPP to a successful conclusion in 2016, the United States was a champion of economic integration in the Indo-Pacific region. This advanced U.S. interests in several ways: it opened up new markets for U.S. exporters in a region accounting for roughly half the world’s population and economic activity, it advanced U.S.-preferred rules and norms, and it supported U.S. strategic goals in a vital and contested region—one in which China is trying to supplant the United States from regional leadership.

How Joe Biden Could Help Internet Companies Moderate Harmful Content

Sue Halpern

Danielle Citron, a law professor at Boston University who has studied Section 230 for more than a decade, told me that she believes Biden’s call to scrap the law was “a placeholder, a way of saying we need to have a meaningful discussion about reforming it.” When Section 230 was passed, with bipartisan support, in 1996, the Internet was primarily a collection of home pages, Listservs, and bulletin boards; Google searches, click bait, social media, online shopping (as we know it today), and YouTube did not yet exist. The previous year, though, an early online service, Prodigy, was successfully sued for defamation after a user posted untrue claims about an investment company and its president on one of Prodigy’s bulletin boards. Because Prodigy moderated the content on its sites, the court reasoned that it was acting as a publisher and was liable for the material that it hosted. In response, Christopher Cox, Republican of California, and Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, co-authored a bill in the House of Representatives that sought to indemnify Internet companies for exerting editorial control over the material that appeared on their sites. The law, Section 230, was intended to prevent the Internet from becoming home to all kinds of unsavory, offensive, and possibly illegal content—content that would drive away potential users and stifle the fledgling industry.

Biden Needs to Move Fast if He Wants a New Deal With Iran

By Saeid Jafari

Although President-elect Joe Biden had promised before this year’s U.S. election that he would return to the nuclear deal with Iran, doing so will be very difficult for him and for all those who hope that the 2015 agreement will be revived with U.S. support.

Biden will take office on Jan. 20 and will not have much time to revive the deal if that is his plan. There will be about five months while moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose administration signed the deal, is still in power in Tehran. That’s because the next Iranian president, to be elected in June 2021, will likely be one of Iran’s hardliners. They opposed signing the deal long before outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew from it in May 2018—and they would harshly criticize Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for signing what they perceive as a weak agreement with the United States.

Although Rouhani himself will not be able to run again due to term limits, members of his cabinet or politicians close to the reformists and moderates will certainly compete. Under the current circumstances, reformists and moderates have no chance of winning the election unless the deal returns to the center of Iranian politics.

The United States Can Negotiate With a China Driven More by Power Than Ideology

By Robert A. Manning

I’m increasingly troubled, when, in discussions of China’s reemergence, every time I raise the question, “What does the United States consider China’s legitimate interests to be?” I am greeted by a stony silence. The answer to that bottom-line question may determine whether the United States can reach a stable coexistence with China, or whether the conflict is inevitable.

Sorting out that question has sparked a debate in the pages of policy journals: Is the source of Chinese behavior fueling U.S.-China tensions driven mainly by a will to exercise great-power prerogatives, or by the Communist Party’s Marxist-Leninist ideology? This is not an academic squabble: Power is negotiable but ideology, like religion, offers little room for accommodation.

Coming to terms with a reemerging China requires understanding that the balance of power is shifting. The post-World War II order was not ordained by God to last forever. China has a much bigger footprint, and the West clearly doesn’t like it. But how much of what it is doing is driven by great-power ambitions as opposed to ideology? I would say quite a lot.

The DOD is the largest employer on earth. Biden's pick to lead it matters.

By Mieke Eoyang

As we’re waiting for President-elect Joe Biden to select a secretary of defense, Washington is playing its favorite parlor game: Why shouldn’t it be the perceived front-runner, Michèle Flournoy? After all, Flournoy has been widely regarded as the most qualified candidate for the job in the Obama administration, for the Clinton administration, and now for those speculating on a Biden cabinet.

In evaluating who is qualified for the job of secretary of defense, it’s important to recognize what the job is.

In what is sure to be a closely divided Senate, ensuring support for Biden administration appointees means that any controversy could derail a nominee. Some arguments will be made in good faith, and others as pretextual claims for those who would have never said yes.

Critics from the left have criticized Flournoy’s ties to the defense industry, her long service in the Pentagon and her policy views, which have been squarely within the mainstream of national security thinking in the United States. At the same time, new candidates have emerged, including former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, a former CENTCOM commander. Other candidates have been floated and then faded, like Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq War veteran who lost her legs in service to the country.

The Institutional Crisis and COVID-19

George Friedman

In “The Storm Before the Calm,” I wrote of two crises coming to a head in the 2020s: a socio-economic crisis and an institutional crisis. The latter has hit us like a hurricane.

There is a distrust of American institutions that crosses ideological lines. A quarter of voters, including half of Republican voters, believe the election was stolen from Donald Trump. In 2016, there was a widespread belief that Russian meddling helped Trump win the election. Other parts of the theory held that Trump had made a deal with the Russians or was being blackmailed by them. This seems to derive from claims by the losers and so was dismissed by the other side. But they argue the same thing: that democratic institutions are corrupt and are not to be trusted.

Most interesting is the symmetry. The claims regarding Trump and the Russians had their origins in the Democratic National Committee hack and the Steele dossier, and then expanded outward. Many Democrats still think that the claims are true. The current claims regarding the stolen 2020 election originated with Trump himself and will likely be accepted by Republicans for a long time. For all I know, one or both claims are correct. What is certain is that the public finds it possible to readily believe the most extreme claims.

From Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh: Russia and Turkey's complex regional rivalry

On 20 October, without much media hype, Turkish forces stationed in the Syrian city of Morek began withdrawing from their base

Morek is the most important Turkish post north of the Syrian regime-held city of Hama and borders the rebel-controlled northwestern part of the country. 

The base is surrounded by Russian-backed military units and militias that are officially part of the Syrian army. They serve as a kind of buffer to avoid new clashes, like those seen at the beginning of the year. 

According to reports, Turkey had reached an agreement with Russia to withdraw its units from several posts and two military bases that are currently surrounded by Bashar al-Assad's forces. 

How Do We Remember the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust?


While acknow­ledge­ment that the Holo­caust took place has become a distinct aspect of Western culture, the genocide against the Arme­nians is still denied by many states and a culture of memo­rialisation is missing. What drives these diver­gent trends in Holo­caust and Armenian genocide memory? And why is there such a sig­nifi­cant diffe­rence in the way in which these two geno­cides have been re­presented in the public, political and inter­national arena by the perpetrators, victims and third-party countries? The author presents answers and causes and con­cludes with recommen­dations for current domestic and foreign policy.

OPEC Pulls Off a Tough Compromise

Ben Cahill

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allied producers agreed on December 3 to add 500,000 barrels per day (b/d) to the market beginning in January, with similar increments potentially to follow in the next two months. The OPEC-plus group will gradually taper its oil production cuts instead of adding 1.9 million (b/d) in January as planned. Starting next month, the group will meet monthly to assess market conditions and will adjust output accordingly. The deal should avoid swamping the oil market with new supplies while satisfying some producers who are losing patience with deep production cuts.

OPEC was forced to scramble even more than usual to find a compromise. On November 30, the core OPEC group pushed back the second stage of talks by two days due to internal divisions over how to cope with significant demand uncertainty and address chronic overproduction by a few countries.

Following a short-lived but brutal price war, OPEC-plus cut oil production in April by 9.7 million b/d. It narrowed the cut to 7.7 million b/d in August and was slated to move to “phase 3” cuts of 5.8 million b/d in January 2021. Saudi Arabia was wary of adding nearly 2 million b/d into a weak demand market, and proposed extending the current cuts for three months, but agreed to the incremental supply increases to win consensus within the group.

Turkey’s economic recovery from COVID-19: Preparing for the long haul

Auguste Tano Kouamé and Habib Rab

Turkey, like the rest of the world, has been deeply impacted by COVID-19. This one-in-a-hundred-year crisis that has touched the populations of 216 countries, landed in Turkey in early March 2020. It jolted the Turkish economy just as it was starting to stabilize from a mid-2018 bout of turbulence. The question now is what should be the appropriate policy mix as the economy tries to navigate the COVID-19 shock and recover from the doldrum it has been in over the past couple of years?

Turkey’s immediate response helped contain some of the more negative effects of COVID-19 though emerging economic imbalances have required policy tightening. Early social distancing, mobility restrictions, testing, and health capacity enhancements helped contain the spread of the virus and the number of fatalities. The economy came to a near sudden halt during the second quarter of 2020. Fiscal, monetary, and financial measures however extended support to some of the most affected parts of the economy. Leading indicators suggest that both supply and demand are making up for lost ground. At the same time, monetary expansion on the back of already negative real interest rates contributed to macroeconomic imbalances and an erosion of external buffers, eventually prompting a reversal in monetary easing.

Ethiopia Needs the United States to Act as an Honest Broker in the Nile Dam Dispute

By Tigist Mekonnen Melesse

In August, the United States decided to cut its foreign aid to Ethiopia during a period of unprecedented crisis for the region, affecting up to $130 million in funds. Construction continues on Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River, with negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan at a standstill. Despite U.S. mediation since November 2019, the countries haven’t reached an agreement over the dam—leading the United States to penalize Ethiopia.

East Africa is already facing a triple challenge this year: the coronavirus pandemic; a plague of desert locusts; and flooding that has affected more than 1.3 million people. Ethiopia has recorded more than 110,554 cases of COVID-19 and 1,709 deaths as of Dec. 2. The locust swarms, which began in Yemen and have reached Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, are likely to cause a regional food security crisis that compounds the effects of the pandemic. The World Bank estimates that the swarms could cost $8.5 billion in East Africa and Yemen this year. In Ethiopia alone, the locusts have damaged 200,000 hectares of crops.

The Battle of Mekelle and Its Implications for Ethiopia

Judd Devermont
Source Link

On November 28, Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed congratulated the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) for seizing control of Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s restive Tigray region, after nearly a month of mounting violence between the government and rebel Tigrayan forces. Abiy declared that he would focus on “rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance while Federal Police apprehend the [Tigray People’s Liberation Front] TPLF clique.” The prime minister’s triumphant message, however, underplays the human toll of the conflict; dismisses the risk of an insurgency and regional spill over; and discounts damage to the country’s democratic transition.

Q1: How did the conflict begin?

A1: Prime Minister Abiy and the TPLF share responsibility for the tragedy in Tigray. Both sides have been confrontational and uncompromising, heedlessly escalating tensions until fighting inevitably broke out in early November. Prime Minister Abiy, whose daring commitment to reconciliation and reform awed many Ethiopians and international observers, including the Norwegian Nobel Committee, was decidedly less magnanimous toward Ethiopia’s previous regime dominated by the TPLF. He swiftly moved against ethnic Tigrayan officials—who represent 6 percent of the population—arresting more than 60 officials, some from the intelligence services and some from a military-run industrial conglomerate. The TPLF responded in kind, rejecting Abiy’s leadership and refusing to join the prime minister’s new Prosperity Party. When Abiy delayed the election due to the pandemic, the TPLF ignored his order and defiantly proceeded with its own election on September 9, which it won by a landslide.

Global Terrorism Index 2020: Deaths from terrorism reach five-year low, but new risks emerge

The 2020 Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has found that deaths from terrorism fell for the fifth consecutive year since peaking in 2014. The number of deaths has now decreased by 59 per cent since 2014 to 13,826. Conflict remains the primary driver of terrorism, with over 96 per cent of deaths from terrorism in 2019 occurring in countries already in conflict.

The largest decreases in deaths occurred in Afghanistan and Nigeria, however they are still the only two countries to have experienced more than 1,000 deaths from terrorism. The fall in deaths was also reflected in country scores, with 103 improving compared to 35 that deteriorated. This is the highest number of countries to record a year-on-year improvement since the inception of the index.

Despite the overall fall in the global impact of terrorism, it remains a significant and serious threat in many countries. There were 63 countries in 2019 that recorded at least one death from a terrorist attack, and the largest increase in terrorism occurred in Burkina Faso — where deaths rose by 590 per cent. Other countries to deteriorate substantially are Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Mali and Niger.

Assessing the Impact of the Information Domain on the Classic Security Dilemma from Realist Theory

Summary: The weaponization of information as an instrument of security has re-shaped the traditional security dilemma faced by nation-states under realist theory. While yielding to the anarchic ordering principle from realist thought, the information domain also extends the classic security dilemma and layers it with new dynamics. These dynamics put liberal democracies on the defensive compared to authoritarian regimes.

Text: According to realist theory, the Westphalian nation-state exists in a self-interested international community[1]. Because of the lack of binding international law, anarchy, as an ordering principle, characterizes the international environment as each nation-state, not knowing the intentions of those around it, is incentivized to provide for its own security and survival[2]. This self-help system differentiates insecure nations according to their capabilities to provide and project security. While this state-of-play within the international community holds the structure together, it also creates a classic security dilemma: the more each insecure state invests in its own security, the more such actions are interpreted as aggression by other insecure states which initiates and perpetuates a never-ending cycle of escalating aggression amongst them[3]. Traditionally, the effects of the realist security dilemma have been observed and measured through arms-races between nations or the general buildup of military capabilities.

Five Cyber Strategies to Forget in 2021

James Andrew Lewis

There is an exuberant public discussion of cybersecurity. However, at times this discussion is not as well thought out as one might hope. The starting point for analysis should not be artifacts from Cold War strategic thinking or hypothetical scenarios that are demonstrably improbable (now that we have had more than 25 years of experience with cyber conflict), but observable fact. Guided by observation and experience, we can improve analysis and policymaking if we eliminate these five refutable concepts from our cyber vocabulary for 2021.

Stability. U.S. opponents do not want stability; they want change. They are challenging the status quo. They see the pursuit of stability as serving Western interests to preserve a status quo where the West, led by the United States, is dominant. The post-1945 international order is eroding in good measure because of their intent to reshape it, and they see cyber operations as a valuable tool for pursuing this goal. They will not renounce actions we consider to be destabilizing, nor is the risk of undertaking cyber operations sufficient to affect their behavior. Cyber operations do not create an existential threat, and this realization has given opponents the freedom to act maliciously in the cyber domain, which they see as risk free as long as they avoid crossing an implicit use-of-force threshold we can observe in state practice. We should plan for an international environment of decreasing stability, all other things being equal. 

Video Conferencing Technology and Risk

Executive Summary
The Covid-19 pandemic created a massive surge in the use of video conferencing technologies and the number of service offerings. The sudden expansion of these services and our reliance on them has raised understandable concerns about risk and security. 

Media reporting on video conferencing (VTC) risk was not always accurate. Suggesting that a competitor has security problems is one technique used to shift markets and customers. However, if these suggestions are provided without attribution, they are not a very good basis for assessing risk.

Since covert entry to a VTC meeting is almost impossible—since interception of communication is expensive for an attacker and defeated by encryption—and if the use of commercial cloud services mitigates many risks, the overall cybersecurity risk of using a major VTC service is no greater and possibly less than anything else done on the internet. 

VTC services generally pose a lesser risk to privacy than many apps, websites, or search applications.

How cyber war games in Estonia looked at future Russian threats

In a modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the United States military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbor but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections.

The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China.

Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation.

The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more – including operating in foreign countries – to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets.

Electromagnetic spectrum management tool coming next year

By: Mark Pomerleau

WASHINGTON — Officials expect a tool to jointly manage the electromagnetic spectrum to kick off next year, helping commands strengthen battle plans to track and stop threats over the waves.

Leaders have discussed the program, called Electromagnetic Battle Management, or EMBM, for some time, and it will now get started in fiscal year 2021. The electromagnetic spectrum has gained importance in recent years, with adversaries becoming more proficient in exploiting it to jam communications and geolocate units based solely on their electromagnetic signatures. As such, the Department of Defense has realized it needs to take a more holistic approach than just electronic warfare — the manipulation of signals — to planning and managing forces and systems within the spectrum.

The tool will support groups of specialists, called joint electromagnetic spectrum operations cells, created at some combatant commands to better understand how to operate in the electromagnetic spectrum, said Alan Rosner, an official with the Defense Spectrum Organization at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The Whispering Prussian: Clausewitz and Modern Wars

The relevance of past wisdom to our modern affairs has always been debatable. Carl von Clausewitz and his theory of war are not an exception. Since On War was posthumously published in 1832, many conflicts have taken place beyond its pages. Equally the international system has changed character several times, states have infused and diffused, and politics has become generally more complex and inclusive than in the time of the Prussian general. War itself has changed; the world, it seems, has short supply of big wars between states, whereas proxy wars, cyber wars, drones, ethnic conflicts and terrorism have dominated international conflict. Clausewitz’s wisdom seems to be obsolete. His eloquent inquiry into war appears to have little to say about today’s modes of conflict and future wars. All these facts may make Clausewitz irrelevant and unnecessary for serious analysts or policymakers, let alone fighters on the ground or in hi-tech war rooms.

Clausewitz, nevertheless, makes a last stand. It is his theory that can sharpen our understanding of war as a human affair, which is invested with violence, uncertainty, and political disputes. Ironically, these aspects of war and conflict that today’s world undergoes, can render Clausewitz more relevant than ever.


Ethan Brown
Disinformation has become the new standard for shaping conflict environments. Great power rivals are reaping the benefits of instability and the fractured faith in our institutions that it has caused. It is difficult to put too fine a point on it: the United States is mired in a pre-conflict, shaping operation—an operation whose goal is undermining the legitimacy of our systems and, ultimately, speeding our departure from the pinnacle of world influence. Recent years have served to unveil the depth and vulnerability of our bureaucratic systems to such disinformation. With the coming change in administration, now is an opportunity to re-energize energized a policy emphasis aimed at restoring the credibility of institutions, strengthening the security architecture against foreign actors, and seizing the initiative from adversaries who seek to derail our tenuous grasp on world leadership.

The Absence of a Genuine Policy Brought Us Here

Interference and disinformation from adversaries remain a bet-worthy reality going forward. Redefining the information space as a formal domain of warfare is one step that can be taken to truly make it a policy priority—just as surely as the disinformation campaigns of malicious actors have affected the United States and partners of late, they are certain to grow in complexity and virulence going forward.